ST. LOUIS — The nation's largest pharmacy benefits manager is getting bigger.
Express Scripts officials Thursday confirmed reports that the company plans to add 1,500 jobs over the next five years as part of a $56 million expansion of its sprawling headquarters near the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
Construction could begin this year, but there is a caveat: The deal is contingent upon approval of tax incentives from St. Louis County and the state of Missouri, Express Scripts spokesman Brian Henry said.
A statement from the Missouri Department of Economic Development said the state is working with Express Scripts to identify applicable economic incentives. The St. Louis County Council will consider the incentives Tuesday, said Katy Jamboretz, a spokeswoman for the county's economic development arm.
It marks the third big expansion in the St. Louis region announced in the past two months — the other two are also aided by state tax incentives. St. Louis-based Monsanto said in April it was adding 675 jobs through a $400 million expansion in Chesterfield, and Gov. Jay Nixon announced last week that Boeing will add at least 400 jobs through creation of an IT center in Hazelwood. Boeing already employs several thousand people in the region.
Express Scripts became the nation's largest pharmacy benefits manager when it acquired Medco Health Solutions Inc. last year for $29.1 billion. It now handles prescriptions for 100 million people — nearly one in three Americans.
Pharmacy benefits managers run prescription drug plans for employers, government agencies and other clients, using their large purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices. They make money by reducing costs for health plan sponsors and members.
The company employs more than 30,000 workers, including 4,500 in the St. Louis area. Henry said the company considered other sites for the expansion but ultimately decided to add to its headquarters.
"We've grown up here in St. Louis," Henry said. "The company started here in 1986. As we considered ways to expand and be more efficient we obviously looked across the country, but it was clear we had some room to grow here and decided to do so."